Your writing is probably crippled! If you're like my wife, who falls into the same category as most undergrad students, you suck at writing. More aptly put, though, you probably suffer from chronic procrastination and the ever menacing writer's block.
I'm not a writing god, mind you (maybe, kinda). I'm miserable at spelling. I can't tell you what that word is called that's modified by the word that always sounds better in the active sense. But I can write. I can write, like literally put words to paper. Everything else from there is just styling, cutting adverbs without mercy, and citing.
This Stuff Isn't Fairy Dust!
Aside from typing, I embraced two important concepts that forever set my words free. Why is this important to you? Because free words lead to sentences, sentences lead to paragraphs, paragraphs lead to sections, and sections lead to essays. Learning these two concepts will free you and your words forever.
Your crippled writing will be healed!
First, writers block is an excuse drenched in self pity, laden with whining and doubt. Leave that wallowing for the unmotivated who have no desire to succeed or, dare I say, get through college! Nobody ever walked into his office and told his boss that he had "worker's block," and then got paid vacation.
More extreme, consider what would happen if a lifeguard one day suffered from "swimmer's block." What would happen if a mother one day had "parent's block?" If you spin your perspective of writer's block in this direction, the notion of a physical action being "blocked" becomes silly!
This is your first step. Change your perception of the power held by writer's block. It's not voodoo.
You're Not Missing Any Special Ingredient.
Second, even though I'm not a big fan of this author, Stephen King opened my eyes to this next no-brainer concept. When you're stuck on what to write, write anything. He shares this wisdom in a small book called, On Writing. It reads more like a bio, but it is filled with gems.
In the first Forward of the paperback edition, published in 2000, Stephen King talks about the band that he and fellow writers put together for recreation. He shares that they occasionally talked about the "day job," but, as he put it, "we are writers, and we never ask one another where we get our ideas; we know we don't know." They don't know!
This is an idea worth chewing on by any writer who wishes to write smoother.
If Stephen King doesn't know where he gets his ideas from, it is safe to say that you can start writing whatever is in your head. No enchanted juice is going to spring from your brain one day and spill an eloquent essay on the page in front of you. Thankfully, there are formulas we can use instead of waiting.
In the second Forward (there are two, I know, it's weird.) he prepares the reader with a disclaimer that has never escaped me. I leave it with you so you can hold with confidence that writing is much simpler than you make it out to be.
"This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit."
Simple. Eloquent. Refreshing!
If You Want to Write Well, Write.
This is the roux of it all. At risk of over simplifying Stephen King's expert advise, I reduce his book to one important gem that most writers skip over, but the element that is the most important to good writing.
If you want to be a good writer, you have to read, and you have to write...a lot. Write, write, and write more! You should blog. Whatever you do, get any of the words that are in your head, out and on paper.
Exorcise the Demons!
If the ideas floating around in your head are not related to your topic, write them anyway. The demons will not go anywhere until they are exorcised. This is Exorcism 101.
When I first discovered that my wife was a weak writer, she nearly stabbed me with the pen she was using. Those were some demons!
It was a desperate time. She was at a place in her head, prepared to injure me if I offered the same advice one more time to her. "Just write it, Sweetie!"
It took a season, but she is steadily coming around to the idea. Your grapsing of the same will give you the key to getting past frustrating writing sessions.
Writing is the Most Effective Way to Overcome Writer's Block.
Writer's block is no excuse for not writing anything. There is rarely a moment that the mind is not thinking about, or noticing something. Write those observations down if nothing else comes to mind. This clears the head, gets the gears turning, and makes room for your paper to shape itself.
"Macs type really well. My Internet modem flashes a whole lot! Did that guy just try to pick her up using his new iPhone? Why does my dog whimper in his sleep?"
When writing is your job (and it is if you have an assignment due!), you must sit down and write. ...anything. Write until the randomness becomes coherent. Don't discount this last section.
This behavior of free writing is ideal for brain storming, and is great for rough drafting too. When you're in your clutch moment, though, and staring at a blank page, whether it's final product, or rough, in the end, nothing is going to happen until you start typing. That is writing. That's the secret.
There is an abundance of great tips for writing, but if you can master this basic exercise, built on the previous two concepts, you've got the 80% that counts for stellar writing, and a more enjoyable experience.
This post was adapted from an essay I wrote for an English class years back. The original essay was around 3,000 words, and the second half covered a powerful tool in effective writing, the concept of Ideas and Details.
There's much more I want to cover, like:
- How to Crank Out 650 Word Essays like Chewing Bubble Gum!
- The Magic Formula of Ideas and Details, Where Stunning Essays are Made with Ease.
- The Beauty of Revision: How to Vomit on a Page, and Turn it Into Gold!
But, for the sake of brevity, and since you have enough to read in College, I'm going to end this one here, and crank out sequels in other posts.
Work on this act of writing, actually writing, and when you combine it with the powerful formula of Ideas and Details, iced over with strategic revision, you will churn out papers that will pop your professors' eyes out! When professors are impressed, they read papers quicker, enjoy them more, and mark them less! Carry this skill over to the business world, and anything is yours for the taking.